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3 Of The Strangest Musicians I Have Ever Met…Part #3, Person #3 Of 3…Rob Zombie.
There are three artists that stand out in my mind as being quite interesting people and very strange at the same time. The years have allowed me to meet some extremely eccentric characters. As I said there are three that instantly come to mind, and here’s the story on the third.
I reiterate, over the years of working in the nightclubs, I would have some very memorable encounters with musicians often well or just before they became famous. You know already that I worked for a string of clubs in a major city, and depending on the night I could be doing Fashion shows, DJ’s, Boxing matches, Spoken Word, Gay nights, Local and International acts, and all things outside and in between.
My coming to this conclusion about the strangest musicians I have ever met, all have different characteristics as to how they were chosen. This person was part of a band that I was onto very early on. I had a feeling they would be big because they were playing some earth shattering music, and it sounded different from everyone else. It was heavy and loud but they still had there own sound signature, so if you heard them you instantly knew who it was. What it was, slowed up and sexy grind core, with a dark foreboding melodic edge.
Beyond this strange character I am writing about here is a bigger story, that is all about the phenomenon of one band member having a vision, and it would be fair to say that these people may not have become famous without their original band that got them there. That is to say that once one member that was the voice of a band was able to turn the original members into “hired guns” over time they could leave and restart a band based around them with new members and continue on, leaving all loyalties behind.
There are a lot of bands that have done this, some of the more notable ones are Billy Corgan of The Smashing pumpkins removing D’arcy and James Iha and creating a whole new band and acting as if the band was the same. Now we can see Billy was always the leader and creator for the band, he had reached stardom, by losing the original members could he now reap more of the profits and full control? (The way the finances are split between the members). Who knows he may have had this setup from the beginning. I know that Billy has said he played most if not all of the music on their first and best albums. Ever since losing James and D’arcy they have not been anywhere near as good IMO.
Next is The Black Crowes, I must preface this part with the idea that was not all their fault…but then again some of it was. I also would like to say that both Chris and Rich Robinson have never received the respect that they deserved as songwriters when Marc Ford, Johnny Colt, and Uncle Ed were in the band. Marc Ford was fired for drug problems and Johnny Colt probably left because he had enough. I personally know that being around the dark cloud of the fighting Robinson Brothers, was hard to endure and I remember the anger between the two could be cut with a knife backstage before and after shows.
Another is Megadeth…again another situation where it was not all Dave Mustaine’s fault. There is however in all of the examples I present here enough fault to go around for everyone. Chris and Gar from the original lineup was inevitable because of drugs and death. Mustaine along with Junior were so amazingly good with Marty Friedman and Nick Menza. Bassist David Ellefson recently stated in part of a Blabbermouth article were he said that people don’t like band lineup changes but it is inevitable. I can see his point, sometimes you just can’t be around “unprepared” band members. I do see that Nick and Marty are everywhere as good as they were then and the current Megadeth lineup is not tight, with Drover on drums, he is always fighting to keep up and drumming style is boring IMO. Chris Broderick is technically amazing on guitar but the sound is to the point of being clinical and lacking any feeling or soul. So as much as Ellefson may be right about lineup changes being inevitable, I can also come to the conclusion that it does not mean a real progression for a band, symbolically yes…creatively, no.
Next the situation is a little bit different but comparable in every way to the aforementioned bands without getting rid of any members. That was Nirvana, and you know how I feel about them. The one thing in the Nirvana story which got me hissing was when Kurt Cobain through lawyers decided to change the three way split that had been in place, to where Krist and Dave received a percent of the original split because they were not the main songwriters. Maybe it’s just me but if I was in the same situation there is no way I would reconfigure the three way split out of principle. As it was, everyone would be filthy rich for life with the three way split. I understand Kurt was the force, but the band was Nirvana because of all three members.
Then there is Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy under the cover of Sharon has continually screwed original and former members out of publishing and writing credits since the beginning. A lot of what made Ozzy famous was his voice as bad as it could be live…it still was a force and often hauntingly amazing. Ozzy would never have been able to pick up the pieces after his firing from Black Sabbath without Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, and Lee Kerslake. Sharon was behind all the underhandedness and Ozzy just went along. Before “Blizzard of Oz” was released, the band had agreed to call and label themselves “The Blizzard Of Oz Band”, and that their first album would state this. When the album came out it was Ozzy who received top billing and the rest of the band just became the name of the album. Sharon chalked this up to a “Printing Error”, ahh yeah…ok! Ozzy is known to be able to come up with good random melodies but he barely wrote any of the music on his first two albums. Ozzy and Sharon did not want to give writing credits to anyone but Ozzy and maybe Randy (Also Rudy and Tommy who were the touring band later on but did not perform on the first two albums), and later would call the real authors of the albums session musicians. They did the same to Jake E. Lee. Very sad, and there is so much more to this story but I can’t get into it here now, it will have to come in a future article. To hear this about one of my favorite artists really left a bad taste in my mouth.
The last group I would like to touch on is Guns N’ Roses. They fit this list in the sense that Axl wanted ownership of the name and he’s been the force for many years now. Where they are different is that original members come back and leave the band (for the most part) on their own volition. Some members don’t want to come back at least for now. Oddly enough the fact that the new Gun’s N’ Roses is very good musically and sounding excellent, and Duff is back…is a great sign that Rose with all his eccentricities has assembled a tight musical entity with Bumblefoot and Ashba.
So all of these stories have something in common and it took me some years for it to pan out. There are many other bands that I did not touch on here in the same or similar situations but you get the point. There is something to be said for a major creative force in a band taking control and continuing the money machine however it can be done. Where there is no loyalty to the other members from the past that made the band the success it is today. The lineups that I mentioned were amazing to watch and it was when all these bands were at there best. The members kicked to the curb were forces to watch onstage, now I go to see any of these bands live today and it is all about one or two members and they do not have the mojo that they once had (with the exception of Guns N’ Roses). With that said, I am still a fan at heart and still listen and follow these bands…and I can’t help loving them even if they are just a shell of their former selves.
So with all that said, there was a band that I personally witnessed this phenomenon, and it has been largely written out of the record books, but as I was there I saw it happen right before my eyes. The band was White Zombie and it’s co-founder Rob Zombie. Now if you go to see Rob with his band name being all him, and you did not follow him early on you may not know the details on the split. It was not a direct result of the end of Rob and Sean’s intimate relationship, as that had ended years before. This may have been part of a continuing tension, but I got to see Rob in action in the early days, and now I know that Rob never had the desire to stay in White Zombie and that it was all about him. When guitarist Jay and bassist Sean we’re kicked to the curb it was not a surprise to me, again as it was all about Rob.
I remember seeing White Zombie live many times and at the beginning it was a small audience that grew quickly from show to show. I also remember seeing them play a club and it was sold out, and the next night I went to see them play at a different venue, the Campus Club in Providence Rhode Island and there were seven people there (Yes, seven including me). They played to an empty club and did a full set. I also remember that Rob did not interact with many of the fans at any of the gigs I was at, he would push them off on to Jay or Sean, and they would stop and talk for as long as you wanted they were really nice. This happened so many times to me and I saw it happen to others all the time. In fact Rob Zombie was one of the musicians that I found myself in a situation to talk to him dozens of times and he never spoke more than a few words to me…he always had a look of I don’t care, I’m all business.
So I had many conversations about music and other things with Jay and Sean Individually, so at the time I did not care about the lay of the land to come. Then there was the time I realized all was not good in White Zombie land. Jay and Sean were at NAMM in Anaheim and they were signing autographs on a photo of just him and Sean from “White Zombie” and there was no Rob in the picture. I remember thinking that’s weird that Rob is not in a White Zombie press photo. Sean and Jay also did not look happy to be there as well. It’s safe to say they looked miserable and a few years later would come to find out that Zombie had split up and that Rob was going solo. Everything clicked at that moment to me. Rob, in my mind was the epitome of an opportunist and if you ask Rob Zombie fans, many would only know of Rob being the star.
Don’t take this to be sour grapes, because that could not be further from reality. I have nothing against Rob Zombie, he never did any thing negative to me. Just talking to Jay and Sean at the time I was happy because I just thought Rob was just impersonal.
If you had a chance to see White Zombie in the early days in a club, you would have been mesmerized. They were a force to be reckoned with. They were different than all the other bands out at the time and they rocked hard. All members of the band were amazing to watch and they were so damn tight. I have never bought a solo Rob Zombie album even though I heard songs that were very good. So I get it, Rob was the Alpha force driving the original band. When they broke up It was rare to hear anyone talking about it. I guess one had to be there to know what I’m talking about.
It’s interesting to see Rob in interviews now, because he comes off as very likeable and objective. It’s like he has settled into his fame and he is happy. He’s not as focused and intense as he was when I was around him. He knew he was going to be famous early on, I can see that now. I’m happy for him although I don’t follow him anymore. It was as if Rob was giving Jay and Sean that time to be around him for this journey, out of the kindness of his heart.
I write all my articles off the top of my head, this is why there is a free form feel to it and why I go off on tangents. Sometimes after writing about something that interests me I look around online to see if there is anything I should add to tighten up the writing. When I read the “White Zombie” Wikipedia Page, I got to the very last paragraph, and to put things in perspective, compare and contrast all that I just wrote with this quote ~
In June 2011, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine, Rob Zombie was asked why White Zombie split up, in which he replied: “It had run its course. Success is a big thing that you can never plan for, because it affects everybody differently. I don’t want to blame myself or anyone else in the band – it’s just that the band didn’t work any more. Rather than continuing on and making shitty records and having it all fall apart , I thought ‘Let’s just end it on a high point'”.
It would be nice, one day to see a white Zombie reunion, but I will not hold my breath as the way it will probably go will be with John 5 on guitar instead of Jay. Again, nothing against John 5, I dig him he’s a Randy Rhoads fan and a sick guitarist to boot. Who knows, that is history now, and now you’ve heard it. My Process my review. Oh yeah, and don’t get me started on my favorite band Pink Floyd and Roger Waters.
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